Before he made our hearts sing in Mozart in the Jungle, Bernal made our palms sweaty in Y Tu Mamé También

By Diana Pearl
January 10, 2016 11:00 PM
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He may have just won Hollywood’s attention by snagging the coveted trophy for best actor in a television series, comedy or musical, but Gael Garcia Bernal has long been an indie darling. Though it’s his first Golden Globe win, it definitely wasn’t the actor’s first impressive performance.

Wondering where you’ve seen Mozart in the Jungle‘s intense New York Symphony maestro before? Here’s a primer on the Mexican heartthrob making headlines this awards season.

1. He revved our engines in The Motorcycle Diaries.
Bernal made a lasting impression in the 2004 biopic The Motorcycle Diaries, where he played the young Ché Guevara on a motorcycle trip across South American that shaped his revolutionary future. Although Garcia Bernal wasn’t nominated, the movie snagged a nod for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes in 2005. It was the second time he had played the famed Ché – the first was in the 2002 mini-series Fidel.

2. The acting bug is in the Mexican actor’s blood.
Garcia Bernal was born into a family of actors in Guadalajara, Mexico – his mother, Patricia, is an actress and model, and his father, José, is an actor and director. Even his stepfather, Sergio Yazbek, is a cinematographer. So it’s no surprise that he ended up following in his family’s steps, landing his first TV role at 11 and throughout his teen years, appeared on several telenovelas.

3. He went full frontal.
There are many reasons to watch the 2001 Mexican film Y Tu Mamá También. It was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2002, it features lush beach scenery shot in Oaxaca, Mexico, it was directed by the great Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, and, oh yeah, Garcia Bernal and co-star/real life best buddy Diego Luna make out. It’s quite possibly one of the sexiest sex scenes ever.

4. He counts director Alejandro Iñarritu as a major career mentor.
It was the Oscar-winning director of Birdman and The Revenant who gave Garcia Bernal his biggest cinematic break, by offering him a leading role in the film Amores Perros. After starring in that hit film, he went on to snag roles in award-winning movies such as the aforementioned Y Tu Mamá También, Iñarritu’s Babel and Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education.

5. He makes for a beautiful woman.
In the critically acclaimed 2004 film Bad Education, written and directed by Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar, Bernal plays a trans woman named Zahara. It’s a dark movie – plot points deal with murder, drugs, and sexual abuse by Catholic priests – but it was the first Spanish film ever to open the Cannes Film Festival.